Dam! Ferry lovers’ Coney plan could be blocked by mayor

Dam! Ferry lovers’ Coney plan could be blocked by mayor
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Is it a dream that can come true, or just a ferry tale?

A second group of People’s Playground boat lovers say that a pier tucked away in Coney Island Creek is the perfect place to dock a ferry from Manhattan, and even ran a successful test run to it from Battery Park on June 17. But a recently announced mayoral plan for the fetid waterway could leave their beloved vessel literally out to sea.

A boat with 150 passengers set sail from Manhattan and landed at what ferry backers are calling the perfect dock at W. 21st Street and Neptune Avenue in Coney Island on June 17 — a maiden voyage that they hope thousands of tourists may soon make every day.

But there is one major obstacle — Mayor Bloomberg’s recently announced anti-flooding plan would build a dam across the mouth of the creek and convert the waterway into a marsh, making it impossible for boats to get inside.

The cruise was the brainchild of Friends of Coney Island Creek Ferry and Landing, a month-old organization trying to convince the city to convert a derelict jetty and adjoining lot on the inlet’s bank into a gateway to the People’s Playground. It argues that creating a water route from the city to Coney would not just cut travel time in half — 29 minutes compared to at least an hour by train — but would revitalize local businesses and the long-neglected Coney Island Creek itself.

“A recreational ferry can provide much-needed community economic development on Coney Island,” said founder Stuart Pertz, an urban designer and professor at Pratt Institute.

A city study on the possibility of launching a ferry service to Coney considered the fishing pier in Kaiser Park as a possible docking location. The city rejected both the dock and the creek, saying they were too far from the amusement district. But Pertz and Friends argue that the dock at the end of W. 21st Street got overlooked — and would be just a 10-minute walk from MCU Park, the Parachute Jump, and Borough President Markowitz’s planned amphitheater in the former Childs restaurant.

They say that alone should convince that city that building a dam that would block their ferry is a bad idea.

“You can look right down and see the amusements,” said Inna Guzenfeld, an assistant to Pertz.

The group also claims that the calm creek would make for much better mooring than Steeplechase Pier — a location other Coney Island ferry advocates have proposed. At Steeplechase Pier, the city would have to build a $20 million bulwark to control choppy ocean waves.

Guzenfeld added that the June 17 ferry had no problem negotiating the wrecks of half-sunken boats that illegal dumpers have been abandoning in the creek for decades — another concern the city report raised. Guzenfeld claimed the forsaken flotsam only made the trip more interesting.

“If anything, all of that just added to the scenery,” she said.

And what scenery. The passage allowed passengers to take in awesome views of Brooklyn’s piers and bridges, plus the shorelines of Staten Island and New Jersey.

“It’s a very scenic tour,” said Guzenfeld “You get a view of the entire Brooklyn waterfront, and you get to see places that are difficult to get to and people aren’t familiar with.

Numerous groups have floated the idea of shipping tourists to Coney, the most recent being the Small Business Coalition, a lobbying group for Brooklyn enterprises. The Staten Island Ferry used a floating dock to usher baseball fans to the People’s Playground from the Rock and back when the Brooklyn Cyclones played their hated cross-Narrows rivals, the hated Staten Island Yankees, in 2001 and 2002. That model was discontinued.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.